CO GOP Zoom Mtg DeGraaf roll call

State Rep. Ken DeGraaf, R-Colorado Springs, holds up a smart phone displaying the message "I REQUEST A ROLL CALL VOTE" during a meeting of the Colorado Republican Party's state central committee on the Zoom teleconferencing platform on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. The committee voted to have an outside group run the El Paso County GOP's upcoming leadership elections.

El Paso County's embattled Republican chair is forging ahead with plans to hold party leadership elections later this month despite a ruling Tuesday night by the state GOP that put a neutral group of supervisors in charge of the county party's reorganization meeting.

As it stands, county Republicans will be faced with choosing between two competing party meetings on opposite sides of Colorado Springs on the morning of Feb. 11, with organizers of each claiming the other is illegitimate and will have no legal standing.

County GOP chair Vickie Tonkins, who is seeking a third term running the local organization, said the only real election will be held at Sand Creek High School, east of the Citadel, while state Republicans assert that the only election that will count is set to take place at the same time across town at Discovery Canyon Campus in Northgate.

The dueling party meetings are the latest fallout in an ongoing feud between rival Republican factions in the county, with Tonkins and her supporters claiming the state GOP is illegally hijacking a local party election, while her critics contend Tonkins has demonstrated she can't run an impartial party election and has been openly hostile toward some Republicans.

At stake is who gets to control the Republican organization in the state's most populous county, which has long been considered the GOP's heavyweight in Colorado.

Colorado's two major political parties this week kicked off their biennial reorganization process, with county parties set to hold officer and bonus member elections in the next two weeks. Republicans and Democrats plan meet in mid-March and early April, respectively, to elect statewide party leadership.

Tonkins on Thursday sent an email to El Paso County central committee members inviting them to what she called the "Real Meeting," along with instructions to ignore any pretenders.

Insisting she's sharing the "actual information and location for the only legitimate county central committee meeting," Tonkins warned fellow Republicans: "Unfortunately, others are trying to unlawfully misdirect you to another meeting and location. We are utilizing all legal options to correct their misbehavior. Sorry for any confusion."

State Republican chair Kristi Burton Brown begs to differ, calling Tonkins' planned gathering a "fake meeting."

“It’s unfortunate Chair Tonkins does not respect the (state central committee's) decision to go forward with a fair, safe, and legal meeting," Burton Brown told Colorado Politics in a text message.

"Unfortunately for anyone who attends her fake meeting, their votes will not count. I urge all (El Paso County) Central Committee members to attend and cast their votes at the official meeting instead.”

At the conclusion of a lengthy and contentious online meeting called by Burton Brown on Tuesday night, the state GOP's governing body voted to strip Tonkins of her authority and instead put a group of outsiders in charge of El Paso County's upcoming reorganization meeting, which will elect a chair, vice chair and secretary to two-year terms. The meeting will also see the election of dozens of so-called bonus members from the county, apportioned based on votes received by top-ticket Republicans in the last election.

Tuesday vote followed sometimes bitter debate between supporters of Tonkins, who charged the state can't do what it proposed under Colorado law, and her detractors, who argued that Tonkins has repeatedly favored some Republicans over others, including when she formally condemned a Republican group that set up their own voter contact organization just days before the November election.

Last month, the state party adopted an unprecedented censure motion against Tonkins, charging she failed to fulfill her duties as party chair by refusing to support some GOP nominees. 

Tonkins and a handful of precinct officers filed a lawsuit Monday, challenging the state party's ability to intervene in the county party's reorganization and citing Colorado statutes and party bylaws.

On Thursday, Tonkins said she plans to pursue the complaint and expects the court will side with her.

"We dispute the validity of the unlawful actions that were allegedly adopted at the special meeting on January 31, 2023," Tonkins said in an email to Colorado Politics. "We are currently challenging them in court."

A lawyer representing Tonkins in the complaint told Colorado Politics his clients plan to file a motion for a temporary restraining order and ask for a preliminary injunction this week in an attempt to head off the state GOP-sanctioned county party elections.

"State law is clear, as set forth in our complaint, that the State Central Committee can address only controversies involving the regularity of the county organization—not substantive internal issues," Brad Bergford said in an email. "We remain confident in the ability of the judicial system to discern the issues and rule according to the law."

Former state Rep. Dave Williams, a longtime Tonkins ally, said Thursday that as far as he understands, the meeting called by Tonkins will proceed unless a court rules otherwise.

"Vickie has a legitimate legal case and won’t likely bend to an illegal order that was adopted in a crooked process," Williams said in a text message to Colorado Politics.

Former state Rep. Kit Roupe, the Republicans' House District 17 chair, advised county Republicans on Thursday in an email that the meeting OK'd by the state GOP is the only meeting that will yield results recognized by the Colorado GOP and the state.

"Many may have received a Call from Chair Vicki Tonkins," Roupe added. "This meeting will not be recognized by the State GOP nor the Colorado Secretary of State. This meeting would be considered a fraudulent meeting. This means the elections results will not be recorded or results recognized."

"It has been a tumultuous month," Roupe noted in the email.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.